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Student visas

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Each year, thousands of international students successfully gain a visa to study in the United Kingdom. The UK government welcomes international students, and there is no limit on the number of student visas that can be issued.

This page provides an overview of visas for international students. More detailed information can be found on the UKCISA website.

UK immigration and visas are managed by the UK government’s Home Office. Please check the UK Visas and Immigration website for more information.

Do I need a visa to study in the UK?

This depends on your nationality and immigration status. Find out if you need a visa to study in the UK here: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa

When should I apply for a visa?

It is important to prepare and apply well before you intend to begin your course. Many students do not realise how long the process will take, and do not leave enough time. You can apply for a visa up to three months before the start of your course, but it’s a good idea to do your research and plan what you need to do before that, if you can.

Your application may require you to:

·        produce documents showing your finances and qualifications;

·        attend an interview or enrol your biometric information

·        take an English language test.

While there are no vaccination requirements for a visa, some institutions will require you to have certain vaccinations or – if you are coming from a tuberculosis high-risk area – a chest x-ray. Check with your institution, for example your university or college, to see what their requirements are.

You should get a decision on your visa within three weeks. Check the UK Visas and Immigration guide to processing times to find out how long it might take to get a visa in your country.

What kind of visa do I need?

The following two visas are suitable for students who want to do a short course or an English language course for up to 11 months:

·        Short-term student visa: You can apply if you are aged 18 or over, and you want to study in the UK for up to six months. If you want to join an English language course, you can apply for an extended visa to stay for up to 11 months.

·        Short-term student (Child) visa: You can apply if you are aged 17 or younger, and you want to study in the UK for up to six months.

The following two visas allow you to do a longer course in the UK:

·        Tier 4 (Child) student visa: You can apply if you are between 4 and 17 years old. If you are between 4 and 15 years old, you must be coming to the UK to be educated at an independent, fee-paying school.

·        Tier 4 (General) student visa: You can apply if you want to study in the UK and you are aged 16 or over, and meet certain eligibility requirements (click here for details).

English language tests

Some students applying for a Tier 4 (General) visa may need to take an English language test as part of their application. Please note that UK Government guidelines and regulations on secure English language test (SELT) providers are subject to change. Depending on where you are from and the type of course you are doing, these changes may have an effect on the test you can take to meet visa requirements. It may also have an effect on any English language requirements set by your university or college.

Find out more in this article: Do I need to do an English language test to get a UK visa?

Healthcare charges

If you are applying for a visa to come to the UK for more than six months you will need to pay an additional NHS health surcharge of £150 per year. This includes students applying from within the UK or from outside the UK.

For further details, including how this may affect any family members travelling with you, please see the UKCISA website.

See the Gov.uk website for full official information.

Where can I study with a UK visa?

The UK government aims to ensure that all universities, colleges, schools and language centres that teach international students are responsible institutions.

To be eligible for a UK study visa, you need to join a school, college or university that is approved by the UK government. Follow these links to see which schools, colleges and universities you can join:

·        Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) applicants

·        Short-term student and Short-term student (Child) applicants

Can I bring my family with me?

Some international students on a study visa can bring their dependents with them to the UK. Please see Bringing your family.

Can I work in the UK on a study visa?

Students: Many international students in the UK take a part-time job, work placement or internship alongside their studies. The hours and type of work you can carry out will depend on the type of visa and your sponsoring intitution. Please see our article Working alongside your studies for advice, and visit the UK Visas and Immigration website for further information.

What if I need to renew my Tier 4 visa application?

You may need to make a Tier 4 application while you are in the UK. For example, you may need to apply because

  • you need more time to complete your studies with your current Tier 4 sponsor
  • you are switching to a new Tier 4 sponsor
  • you are extending your stay in the UK to work as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer or as a Doctor or Dentist in training, or for the Doctorate Extension Scheme, all of which are done with Tier 4 leave

Check here on UKCISA for guidance on renewing your Tier 4 visa.

Can I work in the UK after I graduate?

Graduates: There are many options available to international students who want to stay and work in the UK after completing their studies. Find out more about UK work visas for graduates.

Find out more

You can find out more about UK study visas on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also has a lot of student-friendly advice.